by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – A new poll says, for the first time, a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana.
Those headlines raised eyebrows across the country this week as national news outlets reported on the shift Gallup says has happened. The poll making the news claims that 58% of Americans now think marijuana should be legal to have and use.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of reform when it comes to marijuana laws. They allow for medicinal use of pot. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have gone farther and legalized the recreational use of the drug.
Legalization of marijuana has been tried before in the Show Me State and failed. In 2012, advocates tried putting the issue on the ballot but fell far short of the signatures needed to do so.
On “Missouri Viewpoints”, Show Me Cannabis Regulation Executive Director John Payne says they are hoping to try again.
“Since Colorado and Washington legalized [recreational marijuana use] last year, support has gone up nationwide by five to seven percent. So if that holds true in Missouri, we’re looking at something like 57% support and we will likely pursue a legalization campaign in Missouri next year.”
In the meantime, the group is working on ballot language to propose to the Secretary of State’s office.
Payne believes Missourians are more open to changing the laws on drugs; even those who aren’t interested in using them personally. At least, he thinks they are willing to listen to a pro-legalization argument.
“I think one thing that’s finally changing is that the taboo around talking about this has finally started to drop away.”
According to Payne, that does not mean more Missourians are willing to light up a joint. To him, it’s a public policy discussion.
“I don’t think we’re necessarily saying we should be more friendly to drug use and certainly not to drug abuse but I do think we shouldn’t be locking people up specifically for using cannabis.”
ACT Missouri’s Jason Grellner, who is also a Sergeant with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, wants that personal freedom angle of the debate balanced with a discussion of what’s good for society as a whole.
“What are we doing? We’re supposed to be making this nation a better place to live, a smarter place to live, moving forward in the world market and then we’re talking about legalizing things because we believe that people should be able to have the right to do whatever they want. But we also want to be a nation of smart individuals moving forward in the world market.
“Those two things just don’t mesh at times.”
He says the effort to reduce the impact of drug abuse is prevention efforts through education, law enforcement and effective rehabilitation of those with a drug habit. Grellner insists all three must be in place to make a difference.
“There are people out there that have a problem with using cannabis. There’s no doubt about that but there are people who have a problem with alcohol and tobacco as well. We don’t throw those people in jail.
“We try to get them help and we try to get them back to being functioning members of our society.”
The basic premise of what Show Me Cannabis Regulation is working on is a belief that marijuana should be regulated and taxed the same way alcohol and tobacco are.
That means having age restrictions, so someone who wants to use the drug would have to show an ID to prove they are of legal age. That assumes the changes lead people to purchase through legal distributors instead of under the table drug dealers.
Grellner believes the advocates aren’t being honest with their focus on marijuana as a policy matter.
“What I want to know is why. Why don’t they don’t come out and frankly say ‘because we want to get high.’ You don’t hear that from them. You hear about,’ well, there’s a change in people’s perception and we think it’s a good medicine’ but they never just come out and tell you why they want to legalize it. And that’s frustrating.
“That message isn’t what people want to hear and they know that.”
Despite the news of the national polling, Grellner predicts another attempt to change drug laws will fail again.
“Missourians are a conservative bunch and they don’t want to see the legalization of marijuana because they don’t want to deal with issues like ‘When was the last time my bus driver for my child smokes marijuana? When’s the last time the pilot of this airplane smokes marijuana? When is the last time my brain surgeon smoked marijuana?'”
Ultimately, it comes down to two questions: would you sign a petition to put a marijuana legalization reform on the ballot and, of course, would you vote for the idea?
You may have your chance as early as next year.
On the web:
MSNBC reports on the Gallup poll: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/22/21081289-clear-majority-favors-legal-marijuana-new-gallup-poll-shows?lite
Show Me Cannabis Regulation: http://show-mecannabis.com/
ACT Missouri: http://www.actmissouri.org/